Friday, May 25, 2012

First prickly pear flower of the season

I love opuntias although—or because—they aren’t soft and cuddly. I wish we had room for one of the larger species, like the almost spineless Opuntia robusta shown here. But since we don’t, I’m making do with a few smaller potted specimens.

In the spring, new growth starts to appear. Most of it turns out to be new pads, often looking strange and fascinating:

110505_Opuntia-littoralis-var
 

But with any luck, a few of the buds turn out to be flowers. This is the case with my Opuntia macrocentra var. macrocentra, a plant I bought in January 2011 at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. While it has put on a few pads since then, it has never bloomed—until now.

This is a picture I took at 8 am this morning:

120529_Opuntia-violacea_04
 

And this is what I found when I checked again after lunch:

120529_Opuntia-violacea_07
 
                                                                                                                                                    
120529_Opuntia-violacea_18
 120529_Opuntia-violacea_14
 
120529_Opuntia-violacea_05
 

The soft, almost ethereal petals contrast beautifully with the long spines and the bristly bundles of glochids that dot the face of the pads. The inside of the flower is a surprising dark orange. When I showed this flower to my 10-year old daughter, she said it reminded her of a rose. She’s right, it does look a bit like a rose flower on top of a cactus.

So while I don’t have an impressive prickly pear hedge that might supply us with tasty nopales or tunas, I have these small cacti that I can study at close. And that’s just fine by me.

3 comments:

  1. The colour of the flower is lovely (reminds me of a rose too, tea rose), looks delicate considering how viciously prickly opuntias can be.

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  2. It's a difficult thing describing the blooms in an accurate and yet poetic way. "The soft, almost ethereal petals contrast beautifully with the long spines and the bristly bundles of glochids that dot the face of the pads." That rolls off the tongue nicely. I spend a lot of time trying to give a plant justice via the spoken word, but it's often harder then it seems. Well done.

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    Replies
    1. Nat, thank you very much! Like you, I try hard to express my thoughts as well as I can. Our plants deserve nothing less.

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